The trend for magic and fantasy based romantic chronicles, something older than time itself, has recently gotten a 21st century reboot with Harry Potter and Twilight, and a tidal wave of "teen fiction" has emerged, each winning its own followers in the same way bands or sports teams do. Hollywood, scenting a sure buck, has begun adapting these, with differing rates of success. The template for them all is of course the runaway success of the "Twilight" films, which stuck close to their literary sources and used a cast of pretty and pretty vacant leads, leading to the films deserved reputation for boredom and cringe worthy sappiness (as well as slow meandering plots that went nowhere very slowly) Now that Meyer's cycle has played itself out, we're all waiting for "the new Twilight" in the same way people of a previous generation looked for "the new Star Wars" Could it be "Beautiful Creatures"?
The novels by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl have been phenomenally successful and earned their own devoted fans. From the comments on this site, it appears the film has deviated pretty massively from the book (as many adaptations do) angering fans in the process, but also meaning that the film, written and directed by Richard LaGravanese, stands and falls as its own original creation, and as a standalone film it is actually pretty good!
The storyline of course is made of mythopoeic tropes, like destiny, first love, forbidden love, the chosen one, the call, the call rejected, the wise counsel, the murdering/protecting parent figures, etc. It is all transposed to a sleepy town (where all American fiction it seems exists) in South Carolina, a place where the minds are as small as the town and the future is anything but rosy. Of course into such a place must come the outsider, in this case our heroine Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert) who is of an ancient line of witches, called "Casters" who are born with an imprinted character, a destiny that will either be for light or dark (the world exists on a balance of the two apparently so both are needed) The female Casters apparently have no choice in the matter, and at moonrise on their 16th birthdays, the "claiming" happens and they become their predetermined type (Now how's that for a mythology?) Seems Lena may be going the dark way, especially given a family curse going back to a Civil War ancestor who committed an Imothep-ian blasphemy by using a forbidden spell to resurrect a dead Reb' lover, but seems there may be a way out of it but with a very high price indeed. Drawn to her is the local intellectual kid (but with jock looks) Ethan Wate (Alde Ehenreich) whose love of the edgy works of Miller, Burgess, Vonnegut and Buchowski unite the two lovers (an interesting idea in this sort of milieu) as well as contempt for the local prom queen bitches. Also in the mix is her protective Uncle Macon (Jeremy Irons) who is a Caster too, as well as Ethan's dead mother's lover (are you getting all this?) and guiding her into the light. On the other side is Macon's sister and Lena's mother Sarafine (Emma Thompson) a very dark witch indeed who knows Lena will be the one to bring balance to the Force (oops wrong movie!) and wants her to turn evil so she can get Armageddon on the boil, aided by Lena's sister Ridley (Emily Rossum) a sexy man teasing bitch witch. Aiding the light side is the local supernatural record keeper, seer and Voodoo high priestess Amma (Viola Davis) who will guide Lena to the truth. Oh yes, and Ethan is the descendant of the dead Reb' lover that cursed Lena's line! How will destiny play out?
"BC" is, for such a film, quite smart, with ideas about fate, choice, responsibility and sacrifice, as well as an appreciation for great literature and the lust for knowledge and growth. As in most modern fantasy movies, the age old division of Light and Dark takes on an ideological character, with Serafine and Ridley espousing a pessimistically nihilist worldview, damning love, God, virtue et al as feeble fantasies where only power over others really exists. Macon, Lena, Ethan and Amma of course have faith and respect, and a little wisdom too. Serafine interestingly hides as a Bible bashing Christian Rightist, her own dark joke about what she perceives as the worst of Human folly, while the Human Prom Queen bitches claim Christianity but are the exact opposite of all its virtues and teaching
The direction and writing by LaGravanese are excellent, and show he was interested in making a good movie rather than just a successful one. The film is long but plays well, and never drags. The main asset the film has is its great cast. Englert and Ehenreich are superb as the young lovers, smart, sassy and very credible – No Stewart or Pattinson are they! Backing them up are three top drawer actors, Irons, Thompson and Davis, and rather than stunt casting they add real weight and power to the story, and they are never short changed by the script but given room to breathe and live. The special effects are pretty dire, but they count for little in this story, so it won't make too much of a difference. The Southern-tinged music by "Thenewno2" adds local colour to the proceedings, and technically the film is fine (apart from SFX).
Apparently it has not been a big success, and that may damage its sequel chances. As a standalone it is a fine film, and has a self-sealing ending of the "Ruby Sparks/Nightwatch/Prince of Persia" kind that hints to more should we wish to go there again one day.
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